State Roundup

Lansing

Lansing police, fire departments could face cuts

LANSING, Mich. (AP) -- Officials say Lansing's police and fire departments are facing significant cuts if voters do not approve a proposed property tax increase.

The Lansing State Journal says city council members were told Monday that dozens of police and firefighter jobs are at stake.

Finance Director Jerry Ambrose says no final decisions have been made, but up to 60 firefighters and 60 police officers could be laid off to help close a $20 million budget gap.

Police Chief Teresa Szymanski says the cuts would make it impossible to maintain the current level of street patrols, and some programs might be eliminated.

Fire Chief Tom Cochran says cuts to his department would result in longer response times.

Residents in Lansing, about 75 miles northwest of Detroit, will vote on the measure May 3.

Fruitport

Man charged for sex-themed video accepts plea deal

FRUITPORT, Mich. (AP) -- A 21-year-old West Michigan man facing up to 20 years in prison on charges of manufacturing child abusive material has pleaded no contest to a reduced felony.

The Muskegon Chronicle says Evan Emory of Fruitport on Monday accepted a plea deal that includes 60 days in jail, two years' probation and 200 hours of community service. Emory won't have to register as a sex offender.

After successfully completing probation, Emory will be allowed to plead to a misdemeanor that will replace his felony conviction.

Emory was charged in connection with a sexually-themed YouTube video he shot in a classroom Jan. 12 that featured local first-grade students and vulgar lyrics. He apologized to parents and acknowledged using bad judgment.

Emory remains free on a $5,000 bond pending an April 12 sentencing.

Clinton Township

Ex-Macomb Co. official sentenced to probation

CLINTON TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) -- A former Macomb County commissioner accused of driving in a Detroit suburb with a blood-alcohol level more than three times the legal limit has been sentenced to two years' probation.

The Macomb Daily of Mount Clemens and the Detroit Free Press say 33-year-old Irene Kepler on Monday also was ordered to pay more than $1,600 in fines and costs.

Kepler's lawyer, Thomas Everett, said his client has voluntarily enrolled in a 45-day alcohol rehabilitation program. Kepler declined comment to The Macomb Daily.

Authorities say Kepler was arrested last November while driving in Roseville with a blood-alcohol level of 0.25 percent. Michigan's legal limit is 0.08 percent.

Kepler's did not seek re-election after her commission term ended Dec. 31. She served on the Roseville City Council from 2001 to 2006.

East Lansing

USDA announces more than $10M in grants for Mich.

EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) -- Michigan State University and the University of Michigan are getting a total of more than $10 million in grants for research related to food safety, bioenergy issues and childhood obesity, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced Monday.

More than $5.5 million, including $2.5 million to develop ways to reduce the amount of E. coli released by cattle, will go to Michigan State University researchers. The USDA said $4.9 million for childhood obesity research will go to the University of Michigan.

The grants fit with the USDA's research priorities that were outlined in 2009, Roger Beachy, director of the USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture, told The Associated Press in a telephone interview. Those include improving nutrition and food safety.

"It's clear that the University of Michigan and Michigan State have a lot to offer in support of the goals of research for USDA," Beachy said.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack offered a sharpened research focus for the USDA when the National Institute of Food and Agriculture was launched in 2009. Other priorities include helping keep U.S. agriculture competitive and supporting biofuel research.

The USDA said Dr. Julie Lumeng of the University of Michigan will explore steps to reduce the prevalence of childhood obesity among Head Start preschoolers in Michigan. Dawn Contreras of Michigan State University Extension also is involved in the project.

With the National Institute of Food and Agriculture grant, Lumeng and her team will develop a program to study the relationship between stress, children's eating habits and obesity, and they will examine the potential benefits of stress management strategies.

If successful strategies are found, the USDA said teachers nationwide could get information on how to put them in place.

With the grant related to E. coli research at Michigan State University, the aim is to eventually reduce the risk of foodborne illness in humans. The project is led by Shannon Manning, a molecular biologist and epidemiologist in the school's Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics.

"These infections are a national concern, particularly during outbreaks when public health agencies are rapidly trying to identify the sources to prevent additional infections," Manning, whose work is funded in part by MSU AgBioResearch, said in a statement.

Three other grants for Michigan State University research, which each are nearly $1 million, are related to bioenergy issues.

Detroit

Ex-head of motorcycle club gets 35 years in prison

DETROIT (AP) -- The former president of a Detroit motorcycle club has been sentenced to 35 years in prison by a judge who says the group caused a "reign of terror" on the city's southwest side.

A lawyer says the punishment Monday for 56-year-old Joseph Whiting could become a life sentence because of his age and health problems.

Known as "Little Joe," Whiting was one of six members of the Highwaymen convicted last summer of a racketeering conspiracy. Four more were convicted in December. Prosecutors describe the Highwaymen as a violent gang involved in drugs, robbery and other crimes.

Federal Judge Nancy Edmunds says there was a "ton of drug activity" and Whiting was in the "thick of it."

Whiting gave a rambling statement, raising constitutional objections to many parts of his trial.

Published: Wed, Mar 16, 2011

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